Pep Guardiola’s brother, 47, leads minnows to top of LaLiga as he prepares to face Jude Bellingham in title clash
IT will be no surprise to anyone to hear Guardiola is top of the league.
But it is a bit of a shock to realise it is the club run by Pere Guardiola, not his brother Pep.
And that it is Spanish minnows Girona, not Manchester City, who are No 1.
The unlikely LaLiga pace-setters went to the summit after their win at Villarreal on Wednesday night.
The prospect of Girona, who joined the global City Football Group headed by the Etihad outfit in 2017, playing in the Champions League may already be causing concerns for Uefa.
Their rules currently ban clubs under mutual ownership playing in the same competition.
Yet the Catalan side, in only their fourth LaLiga campaign in 90 years, are the fairytale story of the season.
A side that plays Pep-like football — all about excitement and attacking, high pressing and quick feet rather than the overwhelming control of City.
But one that has done it on a shoestring, featuring a cast of unlikely stars and a Middlesbrough flop who is a true local hero.
Pere Guardiola at 47, five years younger than his sibling, came to prominence initially as an agent, with clients including Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta.
But in 2017, shortly before the City buy-out, he took a 16 per cent stake in Girona, where he is now ‘chairman’, combined with work as a player representative.
It has not been an unmitigated success, with three years in Liga B after relegation in 2019 and promotion then only gained via the play-offs.
That was the first season with former Rayo Vallecano midfielder Michel as boss — and the start of a rebuild led by one-time Boro winger Cristhian Stuani.
The Uruguayan, now 36, refused to leave after relegation, pledging to stay until he had scored for the club in LaLiga once more, a feat he has now accomplished 12 times in 40 matches.
The craft comes from Ukrainian Viktor Tsyhankov, signed from Dinamo Kiev, and 19-year-old Brazilian schemer Savio, who is on loan from French sister club Troyes.
Six wins and a draw in an unbeaten start has seen the 18-goal joint top scorers rise to the summit for the first time in the club’s history.
Michel, who gave the go-ahead for a celebratory dressing-room picture after Wednesday’s win, said: “It’s great to look at the table and see that we are top.
“We could only savour it for one night because we had to start preparing for Real Madrid.
“Still, we deserved to enjoy the moment. This is a team that believes in what it is doing.”